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YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Gaming, YouTube Kids: What's the difference?

The more apps the merrier, until it gets confusing. CNET explains the four different apps from YouTube.

With the recent launch of YouTube Music, we now have four different YouTube apps. YouTube's become so big -- full of cat videos, music, let's-plays, vlogs, comedy and much more -- that it's hard to find the specific videos you want.

YouTube decided to spin off individual apps dedicated to its popular genres of video, music, gaming and kids, while still keeping the main apps too. All of the apps are free, but with a $10 monthly YouTube Red subscription you'll get rid of ads and unlock special extra features, which I'll outline below. And remember, YouTube Red and Google Play Music subscriptions are interchangeable, so if you pay for one service, you get both.

Each app has its own tricks and tools for the optimal experience. Let's break down the differences and why you'd want to use each.

The main YouTube app

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


You likely know all about YouTube, the online hosting site with millions of videos of all stripes. The YouTube app lets you watch these videos away from a computer on your phone, tablet or TV.

The app focuses almost entirely on subscriptions and suggestions. The more you watch, the more recommendations you'll get for relevant or related videos YouTube thinks you'll like. If you're subscribed to a channel, updates and new uploads appear in a dedicated tab, where you can easily keep up with your favorite YouTube creators and personalities.

The search tool helps you find any of the millions of videos uploaded to the service and you can narrow your results by upload date, video quality, length and more, but not by type of content. That means you'll get a lot of different kinds of results for every search.

YouTube offers millions of free videos, plus you can purchase or rent movies and TV show episodes through the app as well. Those will cost extra and the price varies by title.

With a YouTube Red subscription, you can download videos to watch offline with the iOS and Android apps, plus listen to videos in the background while you do something else on your phone or turn off the screen.

The main YouTube app is the most widely available; you can use it on Android, iOS, the Microsoft Xbox One, Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, Wii and 3DS, plus many smart TVs.

Use this app for: General-purpose YouTube viewing and keeping up with new videos from your subscribed channels.

The YouTube Music app

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

YouTube Music

Launched in November, Music is the newest app from YouTube. It's dedicated entirely to music, with video playlists of songs, suggested tunes and a dedicated music search tool. All of the videos in the app are of music or somehow music-related, so you won't have dig through irrelevant videos to find what you want. Even better, when you search for videos you won't see nonmusical content, and labels clearly highlight official music videos, fan videos and audio-only results.

The app is divided into three tabs for recommended videos, "YouTube Music today" and videos you've liked. "YouTube Music today" is a really neat space that shows themed playlists of popular music, internationally trending songs and albums, eye-grabbing videos and more.

YouTube Music also includes radio stations of music based on a particular artist or song, similar to Pandora. You can control how much variety you'll hear for any given station with a slider that controls the tunes. The app pays attention to your musical tastes to make suggestions and fine-tune your stations automatically.

If you have a YouTube Red subscription, which the app gives you free for 14 days, you won't see ads before videos or anywhere else in the app. Red also lets you treat YouTube as a music-streaming service, where you can listen to videos in the background while you do something else on your phone or turn the screen off and pop it in your pocket. You get a personal offline mixtape too, where YouTube picks songs you've played and tracks it thinks you'll like and downloads them so you can play them anywhere. However, unlike with a full music-streaming service, you cannot create your own playlists or manually queue up songs other than what's currently playing.

Currently, YouTube Music is only available in the US for iOS and Android.

Use this app for: Listening to music, watching music videos and discovering new tunes, online and off.

YouTube Gaming

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

YouTube Gaming

Watching other people play video games is a recent cultural phenomenon, whether it's to share the frustration of a difficult level, learn how to beat part of a game or just be a spectator while someone else plays and entertains you. YouTube is capitalizing on the "let's play" video trend (where gamers record their experience playing a video game) with an app dedicated to these videos and live streaming gameplay.

In YouTube Gaming you can watch recorded let's-play videos, plus trailers and reviews from the top gaming channels. But the star of the app is live streaming, where you can tune into people broadcasting themselves playing a game in real time, either on a console, computer or mobile device.

Live streams dominate the app's home screen and you can browse games and YouTube channels that are streaming right now. Within those streams, you can chat with fellow viewers or the broadcasters.

Like YouTube Music, the search tool focuses on gaming-related videos, so you won't see cat videos or other unrelated content. You can also subscribe to gaming channels and get updates when they post new streams or other videos.

YouTube Gaming is available on iOS and Android.

Use this app for: Checking out live streams, let's-plays and other gaming videos.

YouTube Kids

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

YouTube Kids

Cartoons, nature videos and sing-alongs; YouTube is a great place to find videos for kids. But it's also full of more mature content that makes plenty of parents hesitant to fire up the main app and hand it over to their kids.

YouTube tackles that problem with an app that blocks out the less child-friendly videos. YouTube Kids is great for distracting your kids when they want something to watch without fear they'll come across something you don't want them to see.

The design is very simple and kid-friendly with joyous music playing in the background. The app is organized by shows (like "Thomas and Friends" or "Sesame Street"), music sing-alongs, educational videos and Explore, which is a catch-all.

There's a search tool too, which shows only kid-appropriate videos in the results. And if your kid tries to search for a PG-13 term, like sex or drugs, the app won't give any results. You can turn off search if you'd rather your kid just browse what's featured.

In order to make any changes in the apps, an adult needs to enter a PIN. You can also set a timer for between 1 and 120 minutes to limit viewing time.

YouTube Kids is available on iOS and Android.

Use this app for: When your kids want to watch videos and you want them to stay in the safer, child-friendly parts of YouTube.